7 tips for marketing leaders that’ll take you from risk to reward

Robin Emiliani  /  Jul 26, 2019

It’s no secret that change is challenging.

People resist it. Organizations resist it.

In fact, according to one study, 62% of organizational change initiatives fail and an additional 8% said they succeeded but found their results weren’t sustainable.

Change, as we said, is damn hard.

And here’s the kicker: It’s also necessary. In marketing, it’s change or die. It’s shift with the customers or lose them. It’s harness the latest technologies or go the way of the dodo.

But you already knew that.

The problem isn’t that we’re unclear about the stakes. The problem is that change is risky.

But, hey, no risk, no reward, right? You can’t be on the cutting edge without risking getting cut.

So, how can marketing leaders embrace change and take the kinds of risks that pay off big time? In our experience, these seven things play a key role in big successes:

  1. Be like Netflix, not Blockbuster.

Here’s a fun fact for you: Netflix wasn’t the first company to bring streaming services to the table. Blockbuster was.

The service was called Total Access and Blockbuster killed it because they didn’t want to lose out on late-fee revenue. I mean, fair enough, right? Blockbuster was making $800 million in late fees. What company in their right mind would give that up?

The answer: Netflix.

The brand name we all now know when there’s nary a Blockbuster to be found.

Netflix didn’t care about late fees. They didn’t care about maintaining the status quo. They saw an opportunity and they pounced on it. And Blockbuster, unwilling to change, went from owning the industry to being something only those of us over 30 remember (alongside such gems as floppy discs, the 10-minute wait for dial-up internet, and that tootsie pop commercial with the naked kid and the asshole owl).

The point here is this: There are always reasons to stick with the old way of doing things. But if you don’t embrace change, your competitors will. Being a risk-taker, rolling with the proverbial customer service punches, staying ahead of the competition—it all takes big-picture thinking.

It’s never just a question of “if we do this, will we lose our late-fee revenue?” It’s also a question of what customers want and what the market will happily give them if you don’t.

  1. Always be learning.

Every year, the list of skills CMOs and marketing leaders need to master grows by leaps and bounds. You’re marketers, sure. But now you’re also data scientists, marketing technologists, privacy law experts.

It’s enough to drive 1 in 4 marketers to therapy.

But instead of panicking over all these new skillsets, what if we embraced them? Why not spend a day or two with your data scientists understanding exactly what they do? Why not take a course in privacy law? Why not embrace the way marketing is becoming more multi-faceted every single day?

After all, 90% of CMOs are responsible for marketing strategy. And how can you put together a truly great strategy—how can you know which risks will pay off—if you don’t understand all the skills and tools available to your team at the execution stage?

  1. Don’t do everything yourself.

Speaking of growing responsibilities, no matter how many skillsets you pick up, you probably can’t take on everything yourself. Don’t be afraid to delegate. Hire smart people. Bring on a strategic agency with a killer track record.

The more you understand, the better marketing leader you’ll be. But if you try to execute on everything yourself, you’ll just be an overwhelmed one. Know when to dive into learning and when to partner with other marketing pros.

  1. Befriend the sales team.

Did you know that over half of sales and marketing pros aren’t happy with the support they get from the other team? And 90% of the content marketing slaves over for the sales team is never used by said sales team?

For teams whose goals are so closely aligned—acquire new leads! Convert more customers! Up-sell and cross-sell!—that’s a pretty damn depressing and deeply foolish stat.

So let’s knock it off, shall we?

Make friends with the sales team. Find out what customer needs they’re hearing about that marketing isn’t meeting. Learn what tactics they’re using to convert, and ask how you can incorporate something similar into marketing campaigns.

Companies where marketing and sales do work together have 36% higher customer retention rates. Ignoring that reality is just leaving money on the table.

  1. Embrace the flywheel.

Increase customer retention by 5% and research says you’ll drive profits up anywhere from 25% to 95%. Crazy, right?

This why the flywheel approach to marketing—where instead of focusing all our energy on getting new customers, we give upsell, cross-sell, customer retention, and customer satisfaction equal priority—makes so much more sense than a relentless, single-minded focus on new leads.

  1. Understand customer journeys.

44% of customers say a personalized shopping experience equals repeat business.

95% say they’ll get the hell of your website if the digital experience sucks.

And existing customers are 60% – 70% more likely to make a purchase than those new to your brand.

Which is why you need to know your customers and understand their customer journeys. You need to know where they’re at, what they’re after, and how you can best meet their needs at every touch point along the route to their purchase—and every touch point along the route to becoming a high-lifetime-value customer, loyalty program member, or brand advocate.

And remember Blockbuster? They’re a good reminder that customer journeys aren’t static. They change with new technology. They change with cultural shifts. And you damn well better change with them.

  1. Talk like a human.

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, nobody wants to read boring marketing and sales materials. And the truth is that a lot of marketing—especially in the B2B space—is boring. Don’t take my word for it, though: 42% of B2B buyers agree.

Part of the answer to being less damned boring? Talking to people like they’re people—not robots.

Let’s get risky.

Taking risks that pay off big isn’t a one-person job. You need smart people on your team and smart partners by your side. If you’ve been nodding along, we’d love to chat.


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